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‘Maus’ could be referred to as a graphic novel done by Art Spiegelman, who is an American cartoonist. The novel uses the postmodern techniques to present the ideas, especially those of different human races as different types of animals. It has often been labeled as a history, memoir, fiction, genres mixed or an autobiography.

Maus is a graphic novel that tells the story of Vladek who is the father of Art Spiegelman. He is a survivor of the holocaust and he tells his story through interviews that are conduct by his son. The story is about how Art’s parents survived the death camps of Nazi and Jewish ghettos but lost their son Richeau who was the first born. Vladek and Anja his wife are separated for a longtime in  Auschwitz, though ingenuity and fate helps them escape alive.

Maus 1 describes Vladek’s life when young prior to the war when he was dating Anja. Rapidly though, families are separated, their business seized and the Jews have a hard time avoiding extermination from the Nazi party. In part one, Anja and Vladek survive conditions that are unimaginable in Ghettos only to be separated and transported to different death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. This historical narrative combines the relationship of Art and his father.

Maus II is a continuation of Maus I in the early days when at Auschwitz. Vladek only survived through spiritual faith, help from friends, sheer luck and spiritual faith. The fact that Anja is alive at Birkenau camps gives Vladek the hope and urge to survive. They miraculously survive and reunite after being marched out by American troops that invade Germany hence shutting the camps down. It ends as Vladek dies from old age.

Historical Background

The novel put together two different time lines: the first is in the USA in the 1980s and the other in Poland between 1930 and 1940. Excerpts from Vladek interview by Spiegelman in Rego Park Catskills in Florida and New York and later in Florida, in the 1980s. This story is told in flashbacks all through the World War II in Poland. Vladek narrates his story from a European perspective when in Poland at the time of Nazi occupation. It was during the war between super powers; Russia and Germany. Art and Vladek signify opposition between the present and the past. It illustrates cultural contexts of Poland, Rego Park which are occupied by the Nazi. The contrast of languages and images show the opposition between Art and his father. The juxtapositions emphasize conflict transmission from generation to generation. The father explains of the cultural context at the time of war. Vladek recounts how the Jews were exposed to mistreatment such as their houses and businesses being taken and being forced to live in ghettos, (Spiegelman, 197).Their worlds of emotions are different; Vladek has not healed from the bad experiences under the hands of Nazis. Art is also traumatized because his mother committed suicide.  Art feels guilty that he lives a better life than his parents did. He also feels that he has not been a good son because he refuses to help in house chores when asked to by his father (Spiegelman 130). Art resents the fact that his mother’s diaries were burnt by his father. This goes to show the extent to which the father and son did not get along. The relationship between the cat and mouse is depicts exactly what happened to the Jews during the holocaust. The Nazis would mistreat them before they terminated them (Spiegelman 94). The illustration of Jews as mice and Nazis as cats shows the races were classified which was how they lived during the war. Germans and Jews rarely interacted but it is shocking to see that Shivek’s brother was married to a German their children are thus drawn as mouse and cats hybrids. The holocaust is a remainder of racism in different forms today.

Bibliography of the Creator

Born to Polish and Jew Holocaust survivors on 15th February, 1948, Art Spiegelman developed an interest in comics early. He began to draw professionally at the age of 16.  His family immigrated to the United States in around 1951. His brother had died before Art was born. He spent about a month in Binghamton mental hospital due to a nervous breakdown. His mother later committed suicide. Art’s relationship with his father was not good, especially because his father hated his Hippie movement. They went separate ways after he bought a German made Volkswagen. During this time, he read of graphic artists, like Frans Masereel, who made novels that were wordless. The discussions in the fanzines about such artists involved in comics inspired him later.

He later became an important character in the movement of underground mix in the 1970s. He was both an editor and cartoonist. He was requested to do a strip there pages long on the funny animals’ first issue. At first, he wanted to talk about racism between Africans and Americans, but later changed to Holocaust. The strip had the name ‘Maus’.It illustrated Jews as mice that were being prosecuted by Nazi, die Katzen who were described as cats.  This tale was then narrated to ‘Mickey’, who was a mouse.   

Comics Medium

Comic books from America were big business, and diverse genres flourished around 1940 to 1950. The sales then went down in 1970s. When Maus was serialized, the publishers, DC Comics and Marvel dominated the comic industry. The public generally perceived them as adolescent fantasies that were incapable of maturing artistically. Comics at that time were seen as more of a genre, rather than being seen as a medium.


Maus’s first chapter appeared on December1980 in the Raw’s second issue. After this, the other chapters appeared as a little insert in the usually oversized magazine. It came to an end in 1991, but the last chapter did not appear. Spiegelman put significant effort to get a publisher for it. Six chapters were later taken by Pantheon. The title was Maus: ‘A survivor’s tale’. Five last chapters were taken in 1991 and put in a second volume that was subtitled ‘and here my troubles began’. Afterwards, both volumes were put into a single volume by Pantheon. A CD-ROM of the whole Maus was released by Voyager Company.

How the Texts Work

This story is driven by text. There are few panels that are wordless out of the 1500 drawings that are white and black. Spiegelman often constantly violated the grid with page layouts that are unique. For example, the first 3 pages of the original were highly detailed with expressive styles. For example the brutal Nazis are depicted just like animals and the callousness they show each other which is a literacy device that is appropriate. Despite use of the cartoon imagery, all the characters are realistically human. Since words alone cannot suffice in describing the horrors of the holocaust, pictures are used to connect dialogue and narration.  The texts illustrate the main themes such as guilt from Art and Vladek, luck and racism is such a subtle way.   


The characters are out in a simple way. For example, slashes and dots for eyebrows and eyes respectively.   One can understand it and has deep contemplation, as it is more inviting.

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